Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista opened up about his fight with Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor in an article by Tom Verducci in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated.
Odor caught Bautista flush in the face with a punch after Bautista slid through second base in Odor’s direction during Toronto's series finale against Texas back on May 16. The punch triggered a benches-clearing brawl between the Jays and Rangers, with Odor and Bautista each earning suspensions for their roles in the fight.
“Was [Odor] out to play baseball that day? Maybe partly,” Bautista told Verducci. “Part of me also thinks that he was looking for a fight.”
Bautista admitted after the game that the hard slide was in response to being hit by a pitch by Rangers reliever Matt Bush earlier in the inning, but he told Verducci that he didn’t intend to injure Odor with the slide.
“I could have hit him,” Bautista said. “I could have hurt him. I chose not to. My cleats were down. I slid through the bag. Was it late? Yes, a hundred percent. But what can I do after they hit me? Should I ask my manager to let me pitch, which he is never going to let me do? Like, what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and take it?”
Bautista also told Verducci that he believes Odor was trying to hit him with his relay throw to second base, and that the Rangers' second baseman has done it before.
"I've been playing baseball for a long time," Bautista said. "I know exactly what he was trying to do when he threw the ball. He tried a hundred percent to hit me in the face. And it's not the first time he's done it against me or some of my teammates. And there's video to prove that."
Read Verducci’s full profile of Bautista—including the slugger's thoughts on the future of baseball and whether he will stay in Toronto beyond this season—in this week’s Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands Wednesday, and on SI.com on Wednesday morning.